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  • Chas Bayfield

Rainham Steel and the History of the Flat Earth


After two months of gardening leave, you begin to see the world differently.

You meet the mums on the school run.

You’re here when the deliveries show up.

You walk the dog and meet other dog walkers.

You can go for a run on Hampstead Heath on a Wednesday morning when usually, you’d be on a tube to Knightsbridge.

And it’s only when you take time out from working that you realise how little advertising you actually notice. Which, given the billions that clients invest in it each year, has to be a bit alarming.

When you’re not up to your neck in pitches, placating clients and trying to create an online film that won’t simply disappear into the vortex of the internet, you begin to consume advertising like – well, like a consumer. And in the same way a consumer only really notices the good stuff, that’s all you will notice too.

I wish I could say I’ve been impacted by the endless grammarly ads that appear before every Youtube clip I watch, or the dross that came on before I watched BlacKkKlansman at the local multiplex, or the gizmos and gadgets that pop up in my Instagram feed but I’m the first to skip, switch channels or keep scrolling.

But one medium in particular never ceases to surprise and delight and – yes – make an impact as I meander through the months of being a stay-at-home dad.

In the early mornings, I run past adshels on bus shelters.

On the way to drop my daughter at school I walk past 48 sheets.

I pass any number of digital OOH as I drive to North London’s DIY stores.

I read stickers on lamp posts and consume retro dance party posters when I stop at traffic roundabouts.

I read ads on tubes, across station platforms and on buses.

Much of what I see is woeful but some of it is glorious. I thought the Rainham Steel poster on the side of buses was an ad for a band, or a Made in Dagenham-style musical. Then I saw a truck full of girders with Rainham Steel on it and realised that it is a steel company from Rainham. I’m looking forward to watching The History of the Flat Earth by Eric Dubay on Youtube thanks to Dubay’s enthusiastic stickering of the north London suburb where I live. I love the outsize models on the Boohoo ads. I instagrammed the poster on the back of a bus telling me that driving can seriously ruin a text and the adshel announcing that cancer will not survive humans.

If the money’s right, I’ll happily ‘create an online buzz’ for an online stockbroker, plan a stunt for a provider of airline fuel and attempt to ‘break the internet’ for a fruit cordial, but deep down I suspect that few people will ever see the end results, however pleased with the work I might be. OOH, however, sings to its own tune. It still has the power to stand out. And unlike plenty of Cannes winners, you know it has actually run because you’re standing by a bus stop in Cricklewood and you’re not only looking at it, you’re making a mental note to pick some up next time you’re in Tesco.

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